Public pressure mounts against the arrest of Binayak Sen

Asian Tribune

Thursday 30 August 2007

Public pressure mounts against the arrest of Binayak Sen

People from not only Chattisgarh but across India and abroad have demonstrated support and signed on-line petition campaign demanding action against the unlawful imprisonment by the state since 14 May 2007 of Dr Binayak Sen. Dr Binayak Sen is the General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh PUCL (People's Union for Civil Liberties) and also the Vice-President of the National PUCL. Dr Sen has been a tireless crusader working towards an alternative health system responsive to the needs of the poor.

Dr Sen, a medical doctor from Christian Medical College, Vellore . In recognition of his work, the CMC, Vellore conferred on him the Paul Harrison Award in 2004, which is the highest award given to an alumnus for distinguished service in rural areas. He continues to be an inspiration to successive generations of students and faculty. He is a committed people's rights activist, and has been struggling to protect the rights and liberties of tribal people in Chattisgarh. His arrest by the state on 14 May 2007 had left countless activists and communities stunned.

"Dr Binayak Sen should be immediately released unconditionally by the state" said noted social activist and Magsaysay Awardee (2002) Dr Sandeep Pandey, who heads National Alliance of People's Movements (NAPM). "Binayak Sen has made commendable contribution in responding to healthcare needs of the most underserved communities over decades now, and has brought hope and empowerment to tribal communities of Chattisgarh by strengthening people's voices to safeguard their rights and civil liberties" remarked Dr Pandey.

Dr Sen had a distinguished medical career in CMC Vellore, graduating in Medicine and later acquiring an MD in Paediatrics. From 1976 to 1978, he was a faculty member at the Centre for Social Medicine and Community Health at the Jawaharlal Nehru University , New Delhi. He left his academic appointment to work in a community based rural health centre in Hoshangabad district of M.P. focusing on problems of tuberculosis. During the late seventies, he became an active member of the Medico Friend Circle , a national organization of health professionals working towards an alternative health system responsive to the needs of the poor. This involvement continues till today.

Binayak worked with mine workers in Dalli Rajahara towards addressing their health needs, helping them set up and manage their own Shaheed Hospital . When this hospital no longer required his leadership, Binayak moved to a mission hospital in Tilda where he worked in Paediatrics and Community Health. After the death of Shankar Guha Niyogi with whom he was closely associated, Binayak moved to Raipur. From 1991, he has worked in developing relevant models of primary health care in Chhattisgarh. He was a member of the state advisory committee to initiate the community based health worker programme across Chhattisgarh, now well known as the Mitanin programme. He also gives his services to a weekly clinic in a tribal community in Dhamtari district. He continues to provide health care to the children of the marginalised, especially the migrant labourers.

Binayak has been active and effective in defending the liberties of the disadvantaged, especially through the PUCL. He has served as the General Secretary of the State PUCL Committee for the past five years and as Vice President of the National Committee for the last three years. As General Secretary of the Chhattisgarh PUCL, he helped organize fact finding campaigns into human rights violations in the state including custody deaths, fake encounters, hunger deaths, dysentery epidemics and malnutrition.

In recent times he has worked intensively to bring large scale oppression and mal-governance within the so called Salwa Judoom in Dantewara to national and international attention.

The state had earlier failed to save the life of a dedicated frontline activist Shankar Guha Niyogi years ago. People around the world are outraged by the unlawful arrest of Dr Sen and very concerned about safety and dignity of Dr Sen in custody. More than 100 days have passed since Dr Sen was imprisoned. It also puts a question mark on our democracy where voices of pro-poor activists are stifled by the state in one of the most outrageous manner. Hope the vanguards of justice are listening.

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